Can you share a little bit about what you do at Forrit and what a typical day for you is like?
I am the Project Manager for one of Forrit’s largest clients. I collaborate with our technical team to ensure successful delivery of our client’s requests and liaise with our client to understand their business needs and timelines.
My role requires me to be very organised and know all the moving parts of the project so that all pieces of the overall picture slot into place as smoothly as possible.
A typical day for me starts with morning stand up where I run through the priorities for that day with the technical team and they share status updates for the tasks they’re working on. Throughout the day, I have calls with the client’s Technical Lead to catch up on larger pieces of work and discuss wider project plans. Between calls, I am available to the team to answer any non-technical queries relating to ongoing tasks, I update/create documentation for the project to identify improved ways of working and I prepare for calls with our client in Seattle in the evening.
Did you always know that working in technology was what you wanted to do?
Definitely not! When I was a kid I wanted to be an Olympic Swimmer or work for my Dad (I thought he was a spy). As I grew older and started thinking about life after High School, I realised I really enjoyed Biology – specifically everything to do with the brain. So, I went to University, studied Neuroscience thinking that I wanted to be a researcher and it wasn’t until my final year at University that I really realised that this path wasn’t for me. The things I enjoyed most about my degree were communicating with my classmates, organising and executing projects and presenting to peers and lecturers. I realised that there was a whole world full of jobs that I didn’t even know existed… so I decided to see what was out there.
I was a bit lost after I graduated University – I knew the things that I enjoyed doing but had no clue what that translated to in the job market. After having many coffee meetings, hearing the advice of those much wiser and more experienced than myself, I decided to start looking for careers in Project Management and Client Services. Most people I had spoken to worked in the technology sector and given my STEM background, I started to look into the industry as a career path. The more I exposed myself to, the more interested I became and so I thought I should give it a try – what’s the worst that could happen?
Who inspired you and why?
My parents inspired me, by reminding me not to be afraid to try new things and that I don’t need to know what I want to be when I grow up because no-one ever really does. My Dad’s old mentor, Ailsa, grabbed a coffee with me one day and she was so inspiring. She’d achieved so much in her career; she was excited about where she was taking her career next and had a passion and motivation that I admired greatly. That coffee meeting was one of the moments that really inspired me to pursue this career path.
What advice would you give to women considering a career in the tech industry?
Go for it. If it’s something that interests you and you want to explore the sector as a career path then do it! Reach out to your connections on LinkedIn, set up coffee meetings and start picking people’s brains. Most people are happy to help, it’s finding the confidence to ask that’s the hardest part. It’s the best way to get a grip on the industry and although Google is super helpful – sometimes you just can’t beat a conversation!
What do you wish you had known?
I wish I had known that it’s completely normal to feel overwhelmed and out of my depth at the start, I think that applies to any field (not just technology), but it’s something that caused me to wonder if I had made a mistake. Get a good mentor, whether it’s someone in your workplace or through networking, just find someone you can talk openly with so that they can support you, guide you and tell you that you’re doing just fine and to breathe… but who can also shake some sense into you!
Why is diversity in technology important?
I think diversity in any sector is important. If you saturate a field with people from the same background with the same life experiences, then you’re only going to produce ideas and products that speak to those people. It can create an echo chamber that stunts growth and opportunity for the business and everyone in the field. Diversity brings people from all walks of life – it opens the door to talent, communication and insight that isn’t restricted to one defining factor such as ethnicity or culture.
Do you notice a lack of women in technology? If so, why do you think that’s the case?
I do notice the lack of women. I think it’s improving but with everything, that takes time. I think the cause is multi-layered. During school, STEM subjects can traditionally be more male dominated with females dropping the subjects early. The young women who continue with these subjects can be discouraged, underestimated and dismissed if they don’t fit the ‘traditional’ mould. If these women move into further education (university, apprenticeships etc.) they can still find themselves facing the same hurdles they faced in their early years, only now it’s beginning to become clear that this isn’t an early years issue but an industry issue. If these women complete their qualifications and start working in the sector, then they can find themselves having to work harder and longer to establish themselves. Sometimes these women can feel so defeated and tired that they choose to leave the industry.
What do you believe women need to know/hear/see to consider technology as a career option?
I believe the technology sector needs to show that it is actively changing from the inside to increase diversity, address the gender gap issue and make the sector a more viable option for women. The focus and responsibility should not fall onto high school girls needing to take STEM subjects but more focus on the industry making itself a great career path for women. Women are twice as likely to leave than their male counter parts and until we can understand why, we can’t improve the situation and make this a long-term career option for more young women.
What is some of the advice you would share with women entering the technology industry?
Trust your voice. You’re not going to know everything (or really anything at the start!) so don’t be afraid to ask questions and gain as much knowledge as possible. As you progress in your career use that voice to have your ideas heard, your judgement respected, and your knowledge shared. It can be hard not to feel drowned out at times or second guess yourself due to the stigma that comes with being a female working in a male-dominated field. At the end of it all, you’re the only one who’s going to make yourself heard. So, use your voice and trust it.